Chris Bosh is not Vince Carter. He does not deserve the same treatment. Carter quit on this franchise. He basically pouted his way out of town. Bosh did not.
When Bosh was here and healthy, he played to win. Seven years trying to make this franchise better, albeit seven well-paid years, deserves at least that consideration.
And Bosh didn’t turn tail and run at his first opportunity. He sat down, analyzed the situation and felt he owed it to the franchise to give it a chance.
It was only after the organization failed on multiple occasions to build a championship core around him, that Bosh went looking elsewhere.
Even four years ago, when he signed that three-year extension with a player option, he was putting the onus on the franchise to build around him.
Not even LeBron James by himself can make an NBA team a championship team.
The right pieces around a player have to be collected and allowed to grow together for a championship team to come together.
For Bosh, this never happened. Since he re-upped, there have been a string of re-builds, none that have panned out.
“I’m joining Mr. Wade in Miami,” Bosh said. “I think we’re both fine with the situation. We’ve wanted to play with each other and we have a golden opportunity to do it. Miami was the best decision for me.”
Which is his right.
All along, Bosh has maintained that he wanted to be the man, which he won’t be in Miami.
All along, Bosh envisioned himself as a max player earning max money, which he won’t in Miami because he never got the Raptors involved in the process.
Unless Bosh, his representative or the Raptors ever come clean, no one will know for certain why this messy divorce had to end the way it appears to be ending.
Needed a change
Everyone knew Bosh needed a change of scenery, but it was understood he and the Raptors had to work side by side to take care of each other’s interest.
There is talk of James joining the duo in Miami if the Heat can ship power forward Michael Beasley to Toronto, which will clear sufficient cap space.
Such a scenario would also allow Bosh to get his max money in a sign and trade. But why would the Raptors do Bosh any favours, or Miami any favours, simply to save face?
“It’s not about the money,” Bosh said. “It’s not about anything else, except for winning. We’re going to bring winning to Miami.”
The franchise has never rebounded from Carter’s departure, but this could be different.
Crazy talk? Not necessarily.
A new collective bargaining agreement is not far off. All signs point to it being NBA judgment day — a time of reckoning, possibly following a brief lockout.
Out of that tumult will likely come a new salary structure. To protect owners from their own stupidity, six-year contracts are expected to be outlawed (owners will push for four-year deals) and the maximum salary will probably go down by a couple of million a season.
The previous CBA handcuffed a number of teams who paid their stars far too much money. Bryan Colangelo’s Phoenix Suns gave Stephon Marbury a four-year, $76-million US contract, then somehow fortuitously unloaded him to the New York Knicks. The Knicks ended up paying Marbury $22 million to not play for them in 2008-09. The Knicks gave Allan Houston $100 million, the Pacers gave Jermaine O’Neal $126.6 million and there were many others.
What did they all have in common? All the teams that handed out those deals found it hard to compete after doing so.
In order to keep Bosh, the Raptors would have had to extend him for six seasons and a cool $125 million. That would mean on a team not nearly good enough to be a contender, Bosh would be costing more than a third of the team’s salary cap. That would pretty much guarantee the Raptors would never have the cap room available to sign an enticing free agent (maybe a good thing considering the Hedo Turkoglu debacle) and Bosh’s presence would prevent the squad from bottoming out — necessary in order to draft an all-star calibre player.
With Bosh gone and an arms race underway in the East, the Raptors are all but forced to rebuild.
There is also the not-so-small issue of Bosh’s wonky knee. Bosh has spent a couple of years playing with a massive knee brace. Knees don’t get healthier with age, they deteriorate. Torontonians saw that first-hand when the game-but-lame O’Neal suited up for the Raptors.
For Bosh, the beginning of the end was obvious in Cleveland when he broke his face.
Bosh knew, despite Toronto’s best efforts to surround him, that it wasn’t going to work and that a change was needed.
Seven years is a long time for any player in today’s era to remain with the same team and Bosh simply needed a change.
And so did the Raptors.
But now what?
In the short term, there’s going to be plenty of disappointment at the sight of seeing another star leave Toronto, but each had their reasons for wanting to move on.
Here’s a look at Toronto’s four marquee players who split town.
By not working with the Raptors, Bosh gave the franchise a slap in the face.
Nothing is official and cannot be made official until Thursday, but you know Colangelo was working the phones and exploring every possible angle to try to pry something for Bosh.
“I’ve said this before: We remain Chris Bosh’s best option to maximize his contract potential, whether that’s re-signing here or going out in the market and we work out a sign and trade,” Colangelo said at his year-end media gathering, when the team’s future didn’t look as bleak as it does today.
“Chris said it best: Whether or not he stays, we’ll be working together, discussing what options we have.
“But it’s not often an athlete walks away from a significant amount of money. That’s an advantage we have with him.”
But something happened on Bosh’s road to Miami, a strain that put the Raptors right up against the wall.
As many as seven sign-and-trade scenarios were believed to have been mapped out and yet Bosh finds himself heading to Miami for nothing.
A lot could change from Wednesday, when Bosh went on ESPN to announce his decision to join the Heat.
“No matter what happens, me and Bryan agreed to work together,” Bosh said when he met with the media at season’s end.
“I think that’s important. I respect him as a GM and he respects me as a player. I think that’s important, no matter what you do, you always want to do good business in this league. We’re always going to talk.”
But the lines of communication ended for reasons unknown.
With a TPE, the Raptors would be able to trade for a player from a team looking to cut salary. A TPE does not count against the salary cap until it is used in a transaction. Teams get one year to use a TPE.
Teams cannot package a TPE with a player on the roster (so the Raptors won’t be able to unload Hedo Turkoglu or Jose Calderon by packaging them with a TPE), but they can get a smaller TPE back if they trade for a player making less than the full amount.
For example, if the Raptors obtain a $17-million US exception from the Heat, they can trade for a player making that much, or they can trade for a player making, say, $5 million and get back a TPE covering the difference, along with that player or players.
The Heat could also offer the Raptors draft picks. With Bosh and Wade on board, Miami’s first-round selections don’t carry much value since they likely will be in the 25-30 range, but Miami owns Toronto’s next non-lottery first rounder.
That pick is only protected for a few more years and if Toronto completely goes into the tank and misses the playoffs repeatedly, it could become a significant chip.
The Raptors have been offered the No. 2 overall selection in 2008, Beasley, but have shown no interest in adding the talented but lethargic forward to the roster. Beasley is a spectacular talent, who lacks the desire and mental makeup to be a star. He is also caught between the small forward and power forward positions and is non-existent defensively.
On the right team, one with strong-willed veterans, Beasley could still be productive, but it will not be on Toronto.
Deep down, Jack knew the opportunity to explore free agency would be too tempting for Bosh not to exercise, an option he has now completed that sees Toronto’s
all-time leader in points and rebounds leave for the Miami Heat.
“Just like college,’’ Jack began Wednesday as news began to surface that Bosh is leaving for the Heat and a pairing with Dwyane Wade. “It’s been repeated.
“I’m disappointed a little bit, but I knew the situation before I came here. We talked about the possibility of free agency and I knew the possibility of this happening.”
Jack has no regrets when he decided to sign as a free agent last summer with the Raptors, even at time when so much uncertainty hovers over the franchise.
What kind of reception Bosh receives when he makes his return to Toronto as a visitor isn’t known, but Jack is certain of one thing.
“No one can look at him with any type of disdain,’’ Jack said. “Everyone knows Chris gave his heart and soul for seven years. He just felt it was time to move on.”
The NBA has set the salary cap for the 2010-11 season at $58.044 million.
This year’s cap marks a surprising increase from 2009-10, when it was $57.7 million. The current figure is higher than the $56.1 million projected in April by commissioner David Stern.
With the salary cap in place, teams can start to officially sign players and make trades at 12:01 a.m. (et) on Thursday, July 8. The tax level for teams is $70.307 million.
In addition, the mid-level exception for next season is set at $5.765 million, while the minimum team salary, which is 75 percent of the cap, is set at $43.533 million.
Any team whose team salary exceeds that figure will pay a $1 tax for each $1 by which it exceeds $70.307 million.
Raptors officials had no comment after Bosh made his decision public early Wednesday afternoon but it would be folly to think the prospect of a sign-and-trade scenario wasn’t being bandied about.
Bosh could leave the Raptors with nothing and sign a five-year deal worth about $90 million as a free agent.
Or, if he gets Toronto to participate in a sign-and-trade deal, he could get a six-year deal worth up to $120 million and allow the Raptors to recoup something for losing the leading scorer and rebounder in franchise history.
Whatever finally transpires — and Wade and Bosh aren’t likely to sign their new deals until Friday, after James announces his intentions — Raptors president and general manager Bryan Colangelo has a huge void to fill with his team after losing the 22 points and 10 rebounds Bosh averaged each game last season.
While the likes of Andrea Bargnani, Hedo Turkoglu, Jose Calderon, Jarrett Jack and DeMar DeRozan have proved to be competent NBA players, not having a stud in the frontcourt will be a huge blow.
Colangelo is actively seeking some help elsewhere in NBA free agency — the team will officially announce the return of Amir Johnson on Thursday — but whatever he gets won’t approach the production the team got from Bosh.
SETTING THE STANDARD
Only two Raptors have ever had more than 20 points and 20 rebounds in the same game and Bosh has done it twice. He had 24 points and 22 rebounds on March 25, 2005 vs. Philadelphia and 23 points and 22 rebounds on Nov. 14, 2006 vs. Golden State.
Yes, the 26-year-old Bosh came off as child-like in his attention-starved exit, frustrating the Raptors by being as uncommunicative as he was indecisive, and the instinct is to say good riddance. Just as a free agent named Mats Sundin denied the Leafs a jumpstart to rebuilding by refusing to waive a no-trade clause in his swan song a few years back, Bosh did Toronto zero favours after promising to work together with Bryan Colangelo, the Raptors GM.
Still, it’s Colangelo — he of the three playoff wins in four seasons here — who failed to build a contender around Bosh. Granted, Bosh simply stopped playing hard during a crucial stretch of his final season here, and he infamously said the Raptors’ win-loss record was no reflection on him. But as a reasonable facsimile of a star player, he had been the lone specimen in a city that lost its best working athlete in recent memory, Roy Halladay, to a December trade.
As of Wednesday, if you wanted to buy a sports-loving kid the replica jersey of a local hero, you weren’t exactly spoiled for choice. The only Maple Leaf who made the most recent NHL all-star team, Tomas Kaberle, is on the trading block. Ditto the best remaining player on the Raptors, Hedo Turkoglu, if only he commanded value. Meanwhile, the top Blue Jay, Vernon Wells, is having an all-star-worthy season. Alas, there are garbage men who do their jobs with less woe-be-me resignation.
What did Colangelo have to gain by allowing Bosh to walk without co-operating on a sign and trade, a possibility he first broached publicly this week after nearly a year of confidently predicting that the Raptors and Bosh would be able to work together for their mutual self-interest?
One theory floated by an NBA insider was that Colangelo – acting on behalf of a newly hard-line board of directors at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., one frustrated at paying out top dollars and getting little in return – had refused to work with Miami on a deal that would enrich Bosh in a fit of pique in retaliation for Bosh’s seeming callousness as he flitted from one meeting to another without consideration for a franchise that had drafted him and a city that had embraced him.
Another was that Colangelo had simply overplayed his hand, confident that Bosh’s determination to get a longer and richer deal from Miami, or any other team, would allow him to extract some significant value in return that would enable him to accelerate what has very suddenly become a rebuilding project.
Either theory makes Colangelo look less like the picture of a two-time NBA executive of the year and more like someone who isn’t hitting for average or power; a gambler unable to reverse the tide of the tables.
Any discussion of the Raptors or the Toronto Maple Leafs must, of course, include the caveat that they are owned by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., a Tim Hortons of sports owners: Successful, all over the place, producers of stuff that won’t kill you but won’t increase your lifespan either, and whose main product is dough with an empty core.
So it is possible at some point Colangelo went to his bosses and said: “I want to trade Bosh before he becomes a free agent.” Only to be told he couldn’t do it. You never know with MLSE. You just never do.
But Colangelo is paid handsomely to do the boardroom politicking necessary to get MLSE honchos Richard Peddie and Larry Tanenbaum to see his side of things. He’s supposed to be smarter than fans and sportswriters. It is his job to be the resident basketball genius in this city.
From a distance, this smacks of a complete misreading of his team – and, please, don’t try to run out that whole thing about this being the NBA and it’s a complicated business, yada, yada, yada. It matters naught whether there were communication issues with the agent: The Raptors had seven years to get to know Bosh. Colangelo was here for five of them. And he’s surrounded by advisers, none of whom appear to be working for free. Where were they in all this?
Colangelo could not afford to have the ultimate decision in this process taken out of his hands. But he let it happen – and compounded it prior to the 2009-10 season by signing Hedo Turkoglu for $53-million (U.S.) over five years, and Jarrett Jack for $20-million for four years. At the end of the day, the GM was left with the same product: Bosh, a bunch of European players and a backcourt that was all-too irrelevant at crucial times. It was an unmotivated, poorly-constructed, fundamentally flawed team, whose happy-go-lucky demeanour on the night it was eliminated from the playoffs left many feeling that if they were Chris Bosh, they’d get out of here, too. (There was singing in the locker room, for Pete’s sake.)
Now, Bosh has done just that – in effect, sending a message to the rest of the NBA that the Raptors aren’t to be taken seriously.
Go ahead and hate Chris Bosh if you like. Feel free to stew about his newly annoying Twitterventures, or his abandonment of the Toronto Raptors. Fume over his enthusiastic embrace of the good life in Miami, where he and Dwyane Wade — and possibly LeBron James, though I don’t buy it — could form the core of a future championship team.
But what would you really have done so differently? If you were wooed and chased, wined and dined, placed at the eye of perhaps the biggest basketball hurricane of all time? If you had spent seven years playing with guys like Rafael Araujo and T.J. Ford and the rest of the flotsam brigade, and played for a team with US$125-million tied up in Hedo Turkoglu, Andrea Bargnani, and Jose Calderon?
And after all that, if Dwyane Wade, one of the three best players on earth, and Pat Riley, the legend, had asked you to come out and help build a dynasty with a championship-calibre organization in Miami, what would you do? You’d go.
Personally, I’m happy Bosh will find himself in a position where he will like be able to compete for multiple NBA Championships while playing in Miami. Why? Because Bosh is a player who has carried the franchise on and off the court for the past seven seasons without getting nearly enough credit or respect.
Granted, he got paid well to do so, but it’s never been about the money for Bosh and his deal with Miami shows this.
What fans don’t know is just how much Bosh took Toronto’s losses to heart. There were countless times where Bosh was the last guy to get changed after a tough loss because he was trying to search for answers why his team once again came up short.
However, despite all of this frustration, he always dealt with the media after these tough losses and handled himself with class. Even on nights where he wanted to duck the media like some of his teammates, he stood in front of the media and answered every question that was sent his direction.
While some fans will harbor resentment that he didn’t allow the franchise to get more in return when he left town that burden shouldn’t fall on Bosh. Instead, that anger and resentment should be directed solely on the front office because they didn’t supply him with the right players to help him get past the first round of the playoffs.
But even if Miami doesn’t become La Casa de LeBron, interest in the team already has spiked to 2006 levels, when Wade and Shaquille O’Neal brought a title to Biscayne Boulevard.
Traffic was so heavy to the Heat website that some inquiring about season tickets were greeted with an error message that read, “Due to an overwhelming demand, we cannot process your request at this time. Please call 786.777.HOOP to purchase your 2010-2011 season tickets.”
Team representatives declined to comment Wednesday on ticket interest, but from talk radio to the Internet, anecdotal evidence indicated a newfound enthusiasm among the faithful.
Alex Midler, 38, of Sunny Isles Beach, had mulled over buying a season-ticket package for weeks, but decided Wednesday to seal the deal.
“It’s nice to have the buzz back in Miami,” Midler said. “With Bosh and Wade and hopefully LeBron, we’re going to be competing for titles for years to come.”
The trouble is, history tells us that combinations like this –- featuring two players who had each been go-to guys the year before -– rarely result in a championship.
Last season, Wade took 33 percent of Miami’s shots when he was on the floor, the second-highest rate of any N.B.A. player (Carmelo Anthony took 34 percent of Denver’s shots when in the game). Bosh was slightly more egalitarian, taking 27 percent of the Raptors’ shots, but he still ranked 14th in the league among players with 2,000 minutes.
If Wade and Bosh maintained their share of the offense from last season, they would combine for 60 percent of the Heat’s shots, a huge number.
How huge? Since 1953, only seven new pairs of teammates had a higher combined rate the year before they got together than the Wade-Bosh duo will have next season. Of those seven, five made the playoffs, but only one made the conference finals, and none won a title.
Furthermore, if you look at the top 30 new player pairs since 1953, 22 made the playoffs but only three won an N.B.A. championship: Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett of the 2008 Celtics, Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest of the 2010 Lakers, and Julius Erving and Moses Malone of the 1983 76ers. The key to their success, in each case, was having a player willing to sacrifice his once-dominant role, as Allen, Artest and Malone all did.
This means that while having a Big Two won’t be a bad thing for the Heat (18 of the top 30 teams improved their regular-season record with their new players), it’s hardly a guarantee of playoff success. Then again, Miami does have a good track record in this type of situation: The third most recent team to win a title with a new Big Two? The 2006 Heat, which paired Wade with the new acquisition Antoine Walker.
The question I ask Raptor fans is, why would you boo Bosh when he comes to town?
- Why would you boo a player that gave his all for a franchise that had done nothing to support him.
- Why would you boo a player that has played under 3 GMs and 3 head coaches during his time as a Raptor.
- Why would you boo a player that has played with 6 starting point guards since his arrival.
- Why would you boo a player that has had a sulking Vince Carter as the best player he’s ever played with in Toronto
- And why would you boo a player that has had Andrea Bargnani as the best front court player he’s ever played with in Toronto
The last point is the real reason why the Raptors are in the position they are in today and why we say goodbye to Chris Bosh today. If Raptor fans have a need to boo someone, I have a good candidate for you. Try Bryan Colangelo, the architect of this wonderful team we have on Front St.
By drafting Andrea Bargnani, Colangelo greased the wheels for Bosh’s exit. After coming off of one of the most successful campaigns the franchise has ever had – Atlantic division champs, 47 wins and the #3 seed in the Eastern conference. It was a time to rejoice for once in Raptorland. Unfortunately a first round loss to the Vince Carter led Nets left fans with a sour taste, but the future was still bright. If we only knew storm clouds were on the horizon.
But the money was not the main issue, it was the chance to play alongside Wade that was the main draw.
“I wanted to choose the best situation for me and my family and Miami was the best decision for me,” said Bosh.
But for Toronto fans, Bosh’s departure will be a bitter blow. A franchise that saw Vince Carter demand a trade just after the apex of his global popularity must now deal with another star deciding Toronto just wasn’t the place for him.
“It’s pretty much my second home and to leave that has been difficult,” said Bosh. But not that difficult, given where he’s going.
In Wade, a 6-4 guard who has already won an NBA championship in Miami, Bosh has a teammate more accomplished than any he’s ever had.
He also has a close friend he’s known for his entire professional career; Bosh was the fourth pick in the 2003 NBA draft by Toronto, Wade was chosen No. 5 by Miami.
They have been rivals on the court during NBA seasons and teammates on it during summers, most notably during the Beijing Olympics.
Wade, who toyed with the idea of leaving the Heat to join his hometown Chicago Bulls, said the draw of Bosh as a teammate in south Florida was enough to tip the scales.
“This opportunity that me and Chris have to team up and play together is just an unbelievable opportunity,” said Wade.
“For me to be able to play with someone of his calibre . . . Right now, I’m one of the luckiest men in the NBA and in the world. “It (staying in Miami) became the best decision for me especially when Chris said he wanted to come down.”
The more pertinent question will be whether Bosh and Wade can co-exist in Miami. During their interview yesterday, both players said they were willing to sacrifice money and touches to succeed. However, Bosh might have to do a little more sacrificing than his new teammate.
"When you join another superstar-calibre player with the team they’ve been with their entire career, I guess it [determines] the pecking order a little bit," Jack said. "You’re coming into a new situation. He’s still going to have to feel his way through. He’s not familiar with the coaching staff. He’s not familiar with Dwyane, for that matter. They only have like two [other] players under contract. He’s not really familiar with the team. It’s going to be an adjustment process for him as well.
"I’m sure they’re going to be able to work it out."
The first team the Raptors need to focus on are the Nets. With the third most amount of cap space, and nothing to show for it, they have to be hurting. The new Russian owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, has to be feeling like the fat kid at the prom, right now, wondering why no one will dance with him. Apparently Boozer didn’t even offer them a chance to match the offer from the Bulls, who were obviously higher on his list. Even David Lee looks like he might be going to Golden State, if rumours are correct. That’s got to sting. Now they have nearly $40 million in cap space and hardly anyone to spend it on. That’s less than $20 million in salaries. In other words, they need to start spending money just to reach the NBA minimum of $41 million.